That Finish Line Look (And a Request for Advice)

I knew this weekend was going to be full. It started Friday night with Relay for Life (I am our team’s captain). This is my the luminary in honor of my mom, a cancer survivor:

On the Saturday morning when Relay was still technically underway, I needed to get my son to the Friends of Wakulla Springs 1 Mile Run, which  was a “Grand Prix” run for him. After he spent the night with me on the oh-so-comfortable Leon County Fairgrounds soil, we headed out at 6:30 a.m. for Wakulla. Having figured out that I would be at Wakulla also, I signed up for the 5K. That 5K is what got me thinking about tonight’s post ……..

Prior to giving in to the siren call of the prospect of running a race I really like for a cause I really care about, I was seriously contemplating not running 5K’s at all until I felt like I was closer to my goal of running a 5K in less than thirty minutes. I have been running 12 400’s at a local track once a week, and have had a bit of success with getting closer to 30:00 (this week was under 33:00), so I had started thinking that I would work on getting closer to my goal in that controlled environment before doing a race again.

But, as I wrote on my DailyMile post after the race, who was I kidding? I may not be happy with my time but I love races. I love seeing the people who share the joy of running; I love seeing all the different levels of athletes do their best; I love watching race volunteers pitching in; I love helping a good cause.

Fred Deckert, one of our club photographers “extraordinaire,” stationed himself at the finish line so he got some real doozies of people’s expressions. (When I was at my son’s kids’ triathlon today, I overheard a parent tell their kid, “don’t smile, just breathe and run.” Really??) But finish line pictures capture so much (more grimaces than smiles!)

I know racing is just supposed to be “against ourselves” and for me it’s a specific time goal but I really do hate to be passed and I use the runners around me to challenge myself to pick up the pace. There were several of us women finishing around the same time, and several of them were friends (or sisters or something). A friend of theirs was coaching them on how to make a better finish and running in with them and I said, “help me finish strong too.” This awesome guy didn’t say, “you’re kidding, right? I want to help my friend finish faster.” By his response, he personified the spirit of running – he was supportive and pushed me to sprint to the end.

That’s how I “2240” and I ended up neck and neck at the finish.

After last year’s St. George Island Sizzler, when my whinefest about how people ought to be polite at the finish line resulted in an almost unanimous chorus of “no, you just have to go for it” sentiments from commenters, I have determined to make the strongest finish I can, whether I am by myself or shoulder-to-shoulder with five other people.

After the finish (we both finished at 41:08), it took me a moment to figure out if I was going to barf or pass out. That “barf of pass out” moment is hard to achieve without the adrenaline of a race. As someone proposed in an article I read recently, “If you’re trying to get faster, you need to race.”

Racing or not, I still want to break 30:00. That’s where the advice part comes in. I know some of the elements are: 1) losing weight so there’s less to move around, 2) getting stronger so the body that is there functions more efficiently, and 3) challenging and varied workouts, including intervals. With our household employment situation right now, I can’t pay someone for personal training, so if you have advice that has worked for you in getting faster, share away!!

I’ll “run” into you next week, readers. I’ll be the one with that “outta my way it’s a finish line” look!

Where is Emily Post When I Need Her?

This blog is intended to elicit comments and opinion – please chime in!
A few years ago, I ran a one mile race with Wayne Kevin.  I wasn’t really training at all at the time, so it was a fairly dismal effort on my part.  Poorly trained or not, some primal brain cells deep in my brain kicked in at the end and I blew past one or two competitors within a few feet of the finish line.  Maybe it was my imagination, but one of the finish line volunteers, who has extensive running experience and my deep respect, seemed disapproving that I would pass the other runner(s) so close to the end.
One year, the Tallahassee Democrat published a picture of Wayne Kevin and his friend, Alex, appearing to be neck-and-neck at the finish of the Red Hills Kids Triathlon.  Wayne had been taking his sweet time on the mile run until Alex started gaining ground on him.  Then it was an all out sprint to the finish; the picture shows each boy struggling with all his might to reach the tape first.  Arms pumping, legs churning, as much machismo as a couple of boys could muster!  Of course, Wayne had started in an earlier wave than Alex, so regardless of all that finish line bravado, Wayne’s finish time was still minutes slower than Alex’s.  But for that moment when Wayne thought he had a race to win, he mustered up reserves that had been completely dormant until a competitor showed up!  In my mind, that had always been a “too little too late” situation; if Wayne had been running his own race, and focusing his own mind, he would not have wound up in such a nail biter of a finish (but it did make a great newspaper photo!). 
More recently, the topic of finish line etiquette came up in a conversation between a friend and me.  I commented that in a recent race, I had sprinted to the finish with another runner, that I felt justified because we had been competing somewhat evenly throughout the race, but still worried that I had broken some finish line etiquette “rule.”  My friend then said, “Well, maybe that explains what another runner said to me today when I passed her right before the finish.”  The other runner’s expression hadn’t exactly been “good job”!
When I got home that day, I sent an email to one of my running guru friends, asking if there is a “finish line etiquette” or some “no pass zone” once you are close to the line.  His response:

It’s more a matter of resentment and hurt feelings to be passed near the finish. I see it at every race. Actually there is some strategy involved. You don’t want to make your bid too early, if you do, the victim has a chance to recover and perhaps hold you off. That said, it’s kind of tacky to roar by within a few feet of the chute.

I thanked the guru, shared the information with my friend, and thought I had put the issue to bed. 

Until (drum roll please), I was the passee at last night’s St. George Island Summer Sizzler Race.  Compared to last year, I really felt better about my endurance in this race, and at the splits, I thought I was easily going to come in under 40:00 (and yes, the “big” goal is to come in under 30:00, but the oppressive heat put many of us into survival mode!).  When I was at 39:39 at the 3 mile mark, 40:00 was out of reach (darn it!).  I was trying to put my all into getting across the finish line when footsteps came pounding up behind me and a runner I don’t recall seeing all race came sprinting up beside me.  Crap!  By the time I mentally registered that runner’s presence, I did not apply enough “oomph” to cross the line first and heard one of the finish line volunteers point out the color of her shirt for the volunteers up the line to know who had come in ahead of who.  The humorous thing was that this runner kept up at full speed through the line, making the strippers’ job a challenge.  I was feeling all the things the guru discussed above (resentment, hurt feelings) in conjunction with solidarity with the finish line crew, whose job is fun but not easy. 

This runner deserves the place ahead of me because she fairly and squarely got to the line a nanosecond before me.  And although the results aren’t out, we probably finished in exactly the same time.  It still irked me, though, and led to me wanting to explore the “finish line etiquette question” in more depth.  Believe it or not, when you google the question there’s not a lot out there. 

The spouse of a twitter friend, who is a runner, had several observations:
1) It depends on the race and your level of competitiveness,
2) apply the golden rule,
3) gauge people you’re running near/with to see they’d welcome push for finish, and
4) many races are timed so the finish spot is not important

What do you think?

I’ll “run” into you next week readers, but I’m not sure if I’ll run “past” you, especially if we’re within five feet of the finish line!